Unseen : symbiotic worlds (Ipswich Fungi Project 2015/2016)

'Unseen' exhibition @ Richard Randall Studio, Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens
'Unseen' by donna davis (Exhibition install view). Photo by Andrea Higgins
'Unseen' by donna davis (Exhibition install view). Photo by Andrea Higgins
'Unseen' by donna davis  (install view of 'UnEarthed Collection'). Photo by Andrea Higgins
'Unseen' by donna davis  (install view of  'Sporulation'). Photo by Andrea Higgins

February 2017 Update
Thanks to Arts Queensland #ArtsQld #artsfunding I am in the process of creating a new body of artworks for my upcoming 'Unseen' exhibition. 

'Unseen' is an exhibition that artistically and philosophically explores inter-species relationships: investigating the intricate web of 'unseen' connections with reference to plants and fungi.

Artworks for this exhibition were inspired by an art/science project with the Queensland Herbarium, Department of Science, Information, Technology and Innovation; wherein the artist undertook an intensive 52-week field research investigation at the Purga Nature Reserve, near Ipswich, collecting and documenting fungi species, which grow alongside the endangered Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana), which now form part of the Queensland Herbarium collection.

To find out more about the science behind the project please read essay by Nigel Fechner (Senior Mycologist, Queensland Herbarium) http://donnadavisartist.weebly.com/essays.html

To find out more about the exhibition and artworks please visit: http://donnadavisartist.weebly.com/unseen.html

November 2016 - Update
I am currently finishing off botanical drawings from some of the fungi collected during the Ipswich Fungi Project. These drawings will form part of the physical collections submitted to the Queensland Herbarium during the project.

The process of collecting, documenting, drawing has provided insight and inspiration for the creative process of reinterpreting evidence into meaningful manifestations, which underscore the focus of my proposed 'Unseen' exhibition, to be exhibited in 2017.  (More details to come in relation to the exhibition in the coming months)

During the project I collected and submitted 77 fungi specimens, with many different species represented in the collections including: Puffballs, Earthstars, Agarics, Polypores, Birdnests, Boletes and Cup Fungi.  Nigel Fechner, Senior Botanist at the Queensland Herbarium (and project collaborator) noted the following in relation to the project:

"Mycologists generally estimated about 4-7 fungi species grew alongside their partner plant species in each location, but this project has already uncovered more than 30 partnering fungi species at Purga. A number of species found in the reserve are known to be mycorrhizal, but not previously known to be symbiotic with Melaleuca."
2016 - AIRS Program, Science Division, Department of Science, Information and Innovation (DSITI)
July 2016 - Update
Exhibition opens 8 August at Eco Science Precinct, Dutton Park - make sure you pop into visit to see works by all the DSITI artist-in-residents 2016: Kay Lawrence, Alinta Krauth, Jeanette Stok and myself.  Exhibition runs until 2 September 2016.
ECTO (Subterranean installation detail), 2016, donna davis, mixed media installation

I have been working on some artworks for the upcoming DSITI AIRS exhibition to be held during National Science Week at the Eco Sciences Precinct, Dutton Park.  These works are in response to the time spent with Landscape Sciences Department and Queensland Herbarium where we were looking underground to investigate both abiotic and biotic components of the soil.  These investigations lead me to discover the amazing dynamic nature of what lay hidden beneath our feet....
Horizon B (detail), donna davis, 2016, pigment print.
Horizon A1 (detail), donna davis, 2016, pigment print.
These works will form part of an installation created to form part of the upcoming exhibition to open on 8 August - 3 September 2016 at EcoScience Precinct, Dutton Park.

The DSITI AIRS residency officially finishes at the end of the week - wow, it has gone so quickly.

June 2016 - Update
After all this lovely rain Nigel Fechner (QH) and I made a visit out to the Purga Nature Reserve to see what fungi was around.  We found Limacella, Mycena, Laccaria and Inocybe, these were found all over the reserve in most areas.  I thought I would share some images of these fungi, not only are they beautiful they are also very very tiny!  I have included some images with the ruler to show scale.

Inocybe - these look so beautiful amongst the lichens.  Photo by donna davis.
TBC. Only found one of these little guys, so delicate.  Photo by donna davis
Laccaria. Photo by donna davis
As part of the DSITI AIRS program I was lucky enough to accompany the Landscape Sciences Team from DSITI on a field trip to the Purga Nature Reserve, along with Nigel Fechner, Senior Botanist (& Mycologist) Queensland Herbarium and ICC Environmental Officers to see what type of soil occurs at the reserve.  I documented this field visit with photographs of each stage of the testing process below:
Soil testing with DSITI Landscape Scientists Team out at the Purga Nature Reserve.  A small tube approximately 10cm diameter was inserted into the soil to extract a core sample of soil for testing.

Inspecting and classifying the soil type & structure, the sample was broken into 4 zones, Horizon A1, Horizon A2j, Horizon B21, Horizon B22.
Testing properties of the soil

'Colour Test' : as its name suggests, testing the colour of the soil against a soil colour chart.  The soil samples from Horizon B levels was quite red.
'Slake Test': this test showed how well the soil maintained its structure when rapidly wet, in order to see how well it can provide water and air to plants, fungi and soil biota.  The samples from each layer held together well.
'Ribbon Test': testing the texture of the soil - which was full of clay.
'pH Test': Testing the pH levels in the soil
Here we can see that the soil is quite acidic (4.5pH) by using the colour chart to look at the chemical reactions in the soil from testing.
May 2016 - Update 
I have spent this week meeting with Landscape Sciences at EcoScience Precinct (ESP) to discuss the science of soil and also to look at the type of soil out at the Purga Nature Reserve.  I have also started doing some of my own soil research, wow, soil is such a complex and amazing structure and is so important for the maintenance of biodiversity both above and below ground - so it is so wonderful to be able to examine more closely how plant roots and fungi mycelium interact with soil structures.

I have also been out visiting the Queensland Herbarium - to drop off the final collections and review fungi data collected over the 52 week collection period.  We have been able to classify the majority of fungi to genus level with a few even classified to species - which is great.  Quite a number of the 77 physical collections contained a number of mycorrhizal species - again quite wonderful. 
Dried Collection of Geastrum sp. together with collection data submitted to the Queensland Herbarium for their reference and resource collection. Image by donna davis.

Dried Collection of Amanita flavella together with collection data submitted to the Queensland Herbarium for their reference and resource collection. Image by donna davis.

Dried Collection of Boletus sp. together with collection data and prepared spore slide submitted to the Queensland Herbarium for their reference and resource collection. Image by donna davis.

Final batch of dried specimens ready to submit to the Queensland Herbarium for their reference and resource collection. Image by donna davis.

I am super pleased to announce that I, along with 3 other artists, have been selected for the 'Artist in Residence Science 2016 (AIRS) Program, Science Division, Department of Science, Information, Technology and Innovation (DSITI)'. The other artists also selected are Kay Lawrence, Alinta Krauth and Jeanette Stok. 

I will be using my time in this residency to collaborate with Mycologists, Botanists and Soil Scientists to create artworks that visually explore the complexities and interconnectedness of living systems beneath our feet; using the data collected during the past 52 weeks out at the Purga Nature Reserve, coupled with new data from this residency as the basis for creative investigation.

The resulting artworks will first be exhibited at the Eco Science Precinct during National Science Week 2016 and will then go on to be exhibited other galleries from 2017.

I am looking forward to meeting new scientists in the area of Soil/Landscape Sciences and Mapping at the Eco Science Precinct and being inspired by the important work they do!

April 2016
Well after documenting fungi every week for 52 weeks out at the Purga Nature Refuge I am now completing drawings of all the specimens found; these drawings will be submitted to the Queensland Herbarium along with the physical specimens to form part of their collection to aid in research. 

This is just one aspect of my 'Unseen' project, I am also creating new conceptual artworks from the data found; the exhibition of these works will be on display later in the year.

This art/science project that examined fungi that grows alongside the endangered Swamp Tea-tree population, was proudly supported by the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF). This project was also supported by the Queensland Herbarium, centre for research and information on Queensland ecosystems, plants and fungi, and by the Queensland Mycological Society.
Drawings by donna davis, image courtesy of the artist.
Drawings by donna davis, image courtesy of the artist.

Drawings by donna davis, image courtesy of the artist.

March 2016
Fungi has been pretty quite over the last few months out at the Purga Nature Reserve, however, it is starting to come back on now.....here are some a few of my recent finds:
Geastrum sp. Image credit: Donna Davis
Mycena. Image credit: Donna Davis
Rhodocybe (tbc). Image credit: Donna Davis
February 2016
The last few months have been pretty quite in relation to fruiting fungi!  So I have been taking the time to do some microscopic examinations and research into some of the spores from fungi found out at the reserve.

I have been lucky enough to be working with a great team of scientists at the Queensland Herbarium during this project to help me with imaging spores which has been such a wonderful and intriguing opportunity.  Recently, Nigel Fechner, Mycologist at QH was able to capture some Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of some spores from fungi found out at Purga.  What amazing detailed images of these sporesI will be using these images as reference to create some sculptures for the upcoming 'Unseen' exhibition which will be exhibited early next year.
Some more examples of the types of fungi found at Purga....
Amanita. Photo credit: Donna Davis
Pycnoporus coccineus.  Photo credit: Donna Davis
Bolete. Photo credit: Donna Davis

Some more images of some fungi found at Purga:
 Delicate Fungi growing on dead timber. Photo by donna davis
Lycoperdon species. Photo by donna davis
 Bolete species. Photo by donna davis
Delicate Fungi underside growing on dead timber. Photo by donna davis

Landscape Interventions (Environmental Installation)
I recently installed my large scale soft sculptures from my "Beyond the Seed" project into the reserve.  These sculptures formed part of my visual hypothesis from my 2014 project that investigated fungi from mycorrhizal families that may grow in this type of habitat.  

It has been great to find and collect some of these very fungi species in the reserveMost of the fungi that I have found in the reserve has been quite small and hard to spot, so it was a lovely juxtaposition to place these large, and clearly visible, fungi sculptures amidst this beautiful landscape.

Fungi in the Landscape (Soft sculpture of Amanita by donna davis), 2015, image by donna davis

Fungi in Landscape (Soft sculpture of bolete by donna davis), 2015,  image by donna davis

September Update
Again not much happening, however the saphrotrophs are still around.
 Fungi_09, 2015, donna davis, pigment print
August Update
Not much happening in the way of fungi this month....
 Fungi_08, 2015, donna davis, pigment print
July Update

Some species found during July include:
Schleroderma, Pisolithus, Puffballs, Pycnoporus coccineus, Perenniporia, Panus fasciatus, Polyporus arcularius

Fungi_07, donna davis, 2015, pigment print on fine art rag
Panus fasciatus?
Two interesting polypores....
An usual example of Pycnoporus coccineus, with an extended stipe.
Found on the fork of a living tree, perhaps this is a polypore from the Perenniporia genus
June Update
Fungi_06, 2015, donna davis, pigment print on fine art rag

The above image features some of the following:
Agarics: Russula, Laccaria, Marasmius, Entolomataceae, Trichomataceae
PuffballsScleroderma, Pisolithus, Puffballs
Polypores: Pycnoporus cocineus

The reserve features the Melaleuca irbyana (Swamp Tea-tree) as the dominant species in an open woodland ecosystem with low sedges.  Finding fungi in this landscape is quite tricky, with most species being found very tiny, and very well camouflaged. Each fungi species that has been found are unique, beautiful and often bizarre - and are full of artisitic inspiration.

These tiny fungi (possibly Laccaria) are only 20mm high with a little cap measuring about 12mm.
Photo by donna davis
Possibly Marasmius, have a tiny 3mm cap and stand 27mm high. Photo by donna davis
Some of the species found so far include:

Agarics: Russula, Limicella, Tricholoma, Laccaria, Amanita, Marasmius
PuffballsScleroderma, Pisolithus
Bird's Nest: Cyathus stercoreus
JelliesDacropinax spathularia
Cup Fungi: Plectania or Peziza
Boletes: Boletellus
Polypores: Trametes lactinea, Pycnoporus cocineus

May Update
Fungi_05, donna davis, pigment print, 2015

Some of the fungi found so far....

Birdnest fungi, photo by donna davis, 2015
These tiny little fungi known as Birdnest fungi (Cyathus stercoreus) are only about 5mm in diameter, they are very beautiful and look like little jewels.  Interestingly the spores are contained within the little eggs inside the nest and when rain lands inside the nest the little eggs are ejected out to spread the spores!

Project Overview

As an artist who works across art/science in order to develop artworks this project will focus on Ipswich ecology; visually examining and creatively documenting different fungi species that grow in the Purga Nature Refuge, home to the endangered Swamp Tea-tree.  I will also visually investigate potential beneficial relationships, such as mycorrhizal association, between this plant species and fungi that grows in the area.  The fungi of the Purga Nature Refuge has never been documented - so this is a significant first.

In collaboration with the Queensland Mycological Society and the Queensland Herbarium, I will have access to scientists, lab equipment and knowledge sharing.  These collaborations coupled with data and imagery, will provide insight and inspiration for the creative process of reinterpreting evidence into interactive, meaningful manifestations that explore connections between fungi and plant; that will in turn support the development of a body of work that focuses on the unique ecology of the Purga Nature Refuge.

Conceptually the work will explore the intricate web of 'unseen' connections, that impact on our native ecosystems.  Materially I aim to develop an original body of interactive and participatory cross art form works; using human powered interactivity as a tool to reveal these connections.

This project is proudly supported by the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF). The Regional Arts Development Fund is a Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and Ipswich City Council partnership to support local arts and culture.  This project is also supported by the Queensland Herbarium, centre for research and information on Queensland ecosystems, plants and fungi.

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